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Sherlock Holmes stamps with added mystery

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Guernsey Post has put an unusual twist on stamp collecting with its latest new issue, a set commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Commissioning Keith Robinson, the illustrator and animator, to design the stamps, Guernsey Post has found itself sponsoring the writing of a new mystery story called Sherlock Holmes and the Curious Case of the Alderney Bull.

Unlike other reconstructions of classic authors' work the new Holmes story was written specifically to provide material for a set of six carefully drawn stamps. A keen Holmes enthusiast, it was Robinson's idea to enliven the commemorative issue with a new Holmes plot.

Robinson has drawn the stamps in a style that borrows from the designs of Sidney Paget, the artist who illustrated Conan Doyle's original work, but also incorporates buildings and landscapes from Alderney, an island within the Guernsey bailiwick. By writing his own new tale, Robinson was also able to make connections between Holmes and Alderney, links that did not exist in the original stories.

A 43p stamp depicts the arrest of a herdsman and Holmes examining a coded message found in his jacket. Police assume that the herdsman is implicated in the crime because the writing on the note is similar to that found on the Alderney harbour wall. A part-built lighthouse subsequently becomes the focus of Holmes's attentions and the final - 77p - stamp shows Dr Watson with revolver in hand and the man who Holmes has concluded is guilty of the crime being apprehended.

In another unusual philatelic development, Guernsey Post has also produced a "mystery pack", which includes the full written story and special minting of the stamps on which there is an invisible image that can be seen only with the special magnifying glass supplied. It is a quirk which gives attentive collectors the chance to piece together additional parts of the plot of the Curious Case of the Alderney Bull.

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